Japan soccer, Olympic exec Kozo Tashima tests positive for coronavirus
The head of Japan soccer, who is also the vice-chairman of the Japan Olympic Committee, has tested positive for the coronavirus and apologized for possibly infecting others.
"I have slight fever and pneumonia ... but otherwise I'm doing fine," Kozo Tashima said in a statement released by the Japan Football Association on Tuesday.
Tashima visited Europe and the U.S. on football business from Feb. 28-March 8. He got himself tested after learning on Saturday that Serbian soccer association president Slavisa Kokeza, whom he said he was seated near at the UEFA general meeting in Amsterdam, was infected with COVID-19. Swiss soccer president Dominique Blanc, who also tested positive on Saturday, was also there.
Tashima apologized to Japan Football Association officials, staff, and journalists whom he has had contact with at conferences and meetings for the past week without knowing he was infected.
"By facing squarely with the disease, I hope to contribute to eliminating prejudice against the new coronavirus," he said. "I will cooperate in various research for the disease, and I will be back."
The 62-year-old Tashima first visited Belfast, Ireland, to attend an annual meeting of the International Football Association Board. He had a presentation at the UEFA meeting in Amsterdam on March 2, went to the U.S. for the SheBelieves Cup -- at which Japan played in Orlando, Harrison, NJ and Dallas, where they played the United States -- and arrived back in Tokyo on March 8. He went to his office several times last week to prepare for a board meeting.
"In Amsterdam and elsewhere in Europe in early March, there was not as much nervousness over the coronavirus as now, and everyone was hugging, shaking hands and exchanging kisses," he said in the statement.
He said he disclosed his infection because he had to inform people he had contact with, and that he didn't want to cause trouble to his neighbors. Such revelation is unusual in a country where prejudice against infectious diseases are strong, and patients and their families most often remain anonymous to avoid harassment.
"At a time when many people around the world contracted the virus and are fighting the disease, I have decided to firmly face this," Tashima said.
U.S. Soccer released a statement on Tuesday saying it did not have any evidence that Tashima came in direct contact and any members of the USWNT squad or staff.
"As we gather more information, we do not believe at this time that there was any direct interaction between the president of the Japan Football Association and any player, coach or staff member of the United States Women's National Team," the statement read.
"Presently, no one associated with U.S. Soccer is displaying symptoms, and all players are currently at their homes, dispersed throughout the nation. Our medical staff is contacting the players and all involved, and we will continue to assess the situation closely. The health and safety of all employees with U.S. Soccer is our top priority and we will continue to take all appropriate precautions while continuing to follow CDC guidelines."
Orlando City SC issued a statement of its own saying that Tashima did not come in contact with any club "staff members, players, fans or members of the general public" during his visit to Exploria Stadium on March 5.
For most people the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of those who are infected recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.
Information from The Associated Press and ESPN's Jeff Carlisle was used in this report.